Recorded between Cairo, Paris, Los Angeles, and Nashville, MIRAJ fuses old school psychedelic garage rock with traditional instruments of the Arab world. Electric guitars and fuzz pedals encounter the oud, Ludwig drum kits shred along the darbuka, saz and mizmar. The socially conscious lyrics in classical Arabic speak of power, oppression, and the refugee experience, but also of liberty and passion.
With French-American psych rock producer Thomas Attar Bellier on one side, and Jaouad El Garouge, musician of the ancestral Gnawa tradition from Morocco on the other, AL-QASAR gained momentum in Europe and the Middle East, with notable appearances at Trans Musicales (France), FMM Sines (Portugal) and the Fête de la Musique in the heart of Islamic Cairo (Egypt). While in Egypt, Attar Bellier collaborated with musicians of the zar tradition, an ancient healing ritual achieved through hypnotic drumming and mystical trance.
MIRAJ reflects the variety of experiences of the band’s collaborators. Amar Chaoui (Tinariwen, Robert Plant) lays down incandescent percussion and rhythmic duels between riq, daf and various darbukas. Algerian “oud hero” Mehdi Haddab (Ekova, Africa Express) engages in a showdown with Egyptian classical oud prodigy Mohamed Abozekry. The Cairo sessions also gave Attar Bellier an opportunity to record endangered Arab and Bedouin instruments such as the kawala and the arghul. To mix the record, he enlisted the help of his old friend Chris Rakestraw (Megadeth, Danzig).